Kathleen McLoud is our guest blogger. Her husband introduced her to bass fishing and she has participated in tournaments with him for the last 17 years. She holds the Rutland County Bassmaster's record for large mouth bass.
A day in the life...
It’s 4:30 a.m., a cool 43-degree spring morning, and we’re off to a major bass tournament on Lake Champlain. I have dressed in several layers of clothing, knowing that by this afternoon it will get up into the high sixties.
Before we head to the Ticonderoga state boat launch we need to stop at Maplefields convenience store for our first cup of coffee for the day. What an eye-opener and pick-me-up that jolt of hot coffee can be.
We have already double-checked our Nitro bass boat’s fuel tank and oil compartment to make sure that the boat is ready for the trip. Our tackle and lures have been made ready also. We’re all set for a rewarding day on the lake.
When my husband and I arrive at the boat launch the tournament organizers have already gotten their check-in station set up and are ready for the beginning of the event. A member of the hosting club comes out to each boat and checks the livewell. This is the compartment on the boat where fish are kept until they are weighed in at the end of the tournament. Water from the lake is filtered into the livewells so the fish are kept at the right temperature. This helps keep them alive and hopefully healthy.
After the livewells are checked and no fish are found to be hiding there, a brightly-colored ribbon is tied onto the trolling motor. This is the indicator that this boat has been inspected and is in the tournament.
Into the Water
Now it’s time to back the trailer and boat into the water. Once off the trailer, one member of the team drives the vehicle out of the water while the other member drives the boat to a safe area. After picking up their entry number, the vehicle driver gets picked up by the boater and they will float in the lake until take off.
This waiting period is often the hardest part of the day for me. I just want to get to our special spot and start fishing.
At this tournament there are sixty-four boats and it takes approximately fifteen to twenty minutes to get each boat launched. It sometimes reminds me of a well choreographed dance, so graceful and smooth and done in a very short amount of time.
Go Get Those Bass
When we finally get the okay to take off, each boat motors slowly until they reach a safe place to get up on plane and heads to their first, and hopefully, good fishing spot. As with most fishermen, we are very protective of an area where we have found prize fish while pre-fishing. We’re just hoping that the fish are still hanging there and that we give them the magic lure that they will bite onto.
If this spot does not produce the big fish we're hoping for, we move onto the next area. And so the day goes: fish, catch, and move on. That’s the way we’ll be spending the next seven or eight hours — always searching for the prize bass to catch and put into our livewell for safe keeping.
Some of the fishermen will travel as far north as Plattsburgh while others go south into warmer waters. Personally, we like to stay between Westport and Benson (on the Vermont side). One of our favorite spots is near the Lake Champlain Bridge. Not only is the view beautiful, but on a rare occasion, the bass may be hanging there.
Time to Return
As the finish time nears, we will head back to the boat launch. If a team is late in returning, they may be disqualified or lose points, so everyone wants to arrive on time. The boats must check-in with the person standing on the dock. This is the official timekeeper. They know that you have returned and arrived on time for the weigh-in.
Usually the day’s catch is limited to five fish of at least twelve inches or more in length. If you weigh in a dead fish there is a .25 pound deducted off the total weight. Every precaution is taken to keep the fish alive and healthy. A fish that is safely returned to the lake can then breed and grow bigger for the next tournament.
We are hoping for not only the heaviest bag of fish but also for the “lunker” which is the term given to the biggest fish of the event.
Back several years ago while fishing a major tournament I caught an 8-pound largemouth bass. This fish won me the “lunker of the day” plus bragging rights for years to come. It broke the record for our club and they were kind enough to make a composite to put on our wall. The fish was returned to the lake. I do believe that this record still holds and earned me the title of “lunker lady!”
Each team brings their bag of fish up to the scales to be weighed in by a tournament member. The fish are taken out of the boat’s livewell and placed in a special bag with lake water in it and carried up to the scales by one of the team members. The weight is recorded on a board with each team’s name and boat number. As quickly as possible the bass is then returned to the lake.
After all the teams have weighed their fish the tournament director announces the winners.
I remember an event where my husband had the lunker and at the very last moment was beaten out by someone weighing in a large-mouth bass that just weighed just slightly more. In fact it was only the weight of a pencil eraser. What a huge disappointment that was. I was so upset to have lost the $2000 prize money and my husband lost the honor of having the biggest fish that day.
The final step of the tournament comes with the awarding of the checks and trophies. There are always many congratulations and a few very upset fishermen because they didn’t place in this event. But there’s always next time.
The boats then get loaded back onto the trailers and the equipment stored away. Each team member checks their boat trailers for weeds and removes them if found before they leave the launch. It’s important to keep our lakes and waterways free of invasive species. Bass fishermen are very concerned about this issue.
Great Day on the Lake
Since I first started fishing bass tournaments with my husband back in early 2000, we have done several events on Lake Champlain as well as many other bodies of water both in and out of New York state. To this day, some of our best spots remain on our home lake.
Of course, no good catch is complete without the approval of our dogs! They've come with us on the boat since they were just pups.
We are looking forward to another great year with big payouts and a wonderful time on the water.
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